Georgia’s big secret: State needs illegal workers

WASHINGTON — I’m going to let you in on a big secret, a closely-held and dirty truth about Georgia’s farmers: They depend on immigrants, some of whom are here illegally.

What’s that? You knew that already? Not such a secret?

Well, Georgia’s agri-business leaders are posing and posturing as if it is. They dare not admit that they need the sweat and toil of migrant laborers so much that they are not always fastidious about searching for legal documents.

But the gut-busting pressures of a harsh new Georgia law targeting illegal immigrants — modeled after a controversial law in Arizona — may force farmers to speak the truth out loud. At the very least, it may force them to campaign openly for a broad immigration reform proposal that grants legal status to illegal laborers.

It’s not looking like a good year for many of Georgia’s farmers, who were already struggling with a warming earth. As drought conditions worsen in some portions of the state — upgraded from moderate to severe — searing heat and stingy rainfall are yellowing leaves and stunting crops.

Now, some of those lucky enough to reap bountiful harvests may be forced to leave fruits and vegetables in the fields for want of enough hands to pick the onions and tomatoes, beans and watermelons. Farmers have complained that some of their seasonal workers from Mexico, Guatemala and other points south have failed to show up, frightened away by the new law, which takes effect July 1, and its promise of increased scrutiny of those with Spanish surnames.

Dick Minor, president of the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable

Growers Association, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that some migrant workers are skipping Georgia because they fear harassment. “People are just saying, ‘I am not going to Georgia. The law is terrible. We are going to get in trouble there. Let’s just go on.’ They have options. And what they are saying is, ‘Georgia is not the place to go,’ “ he told reporter Jeremy Redmon.

(For what it’s worth, the labor shortage casts doubt on

the old canard that illegal immigrants are taking jobs from hardworking American citizens, a reliable set-piece in arguments from nativist diehards. Even at an average wage of $12.50 or so an hour, native-born Georgians aren’t eager to take the work the fields offer — dirty, joint-maiming, miserably hot and impermanent. Once you’ve picked one crop, you must move to another state for a different harvest.)

Still, Minor and other agri-business leaders continue to insist that they only hire legally — and that the new law has scared away workers with green cards or other legal documents. That may be. It’s certainly easy to imagine that workers who don’t wish to be harassed would avoid a state that has hung out an unwelcome sign.

But it’s also likely that some of those workers don’t have legal documents and fear deportation. Hints of that abound — including a recent history wherein Georgia farmers complained to their Congressional delegation when federal agents raided their fields.

There are also the frequent complaints about the federal program that governs guest workers, a system that allows temporary laborers to enter the country legally. Many Georgia farmers complain it is too bureaucratic and costly to use. So how many of them rely, instead, on workers whose papers are suspect?

Georgia farmers aren’t the likeliest allies of immigration reform activists, but necessity can create strange alliances. The fields need strong backs and willing hands, and there aren’t enough of those around.

279 comments Add your comment

nasonlead

June 3rd, 2011
5:05 pm

yuze i just read your comment about 38 cents a basket. First of all baskets havent been used since the 50’s down here. The going rate for a clipped field bag of onions (60-70lbs) is $1.96 per bag and the average clipper earns about $700.00 a week. It is true that the work is hard and excruiating but do not dare to pretend to equate this with slavery when you have no idea what you are talking about please.

Lil' Barry Bailout

June 3rd, 2011
5:06 pm

Georgia farmers aren’t going to let their crops rot in the field. They’re going to raise wages high enough so that lazy Americans will do the job.

Sounds like a win all the way around.

oldguy

June 3rd, 2011
5:11 pm

Cynthia, So legal work permit holders are afraid to come to Georgia to work?????
And you base that opinion on what?? Rubbish! Another Tucker RED HERRING! (can I get some soy sause with that?)
Grannie:
You are serious aren’t you?/ I feel like breaking into a chorus of “WE ARE THE WORLD” What are you drinking (can I get a glass?).
Then essentually we should extend health benifits, constitutional rights, etc to the world. Are you and George Soros going to pay for it?????
We are going broke trying to support our own real citizens.
You can’t possibly be that blind; I have more respect for your intelligence that to think you are even mildly serious.

oldguy

June 3rd, 2011
5:20 pm

nasonlead:
You are wasting you breath; you are trying to explain the reality of farming to intercity liberals. They think farm products come from food stamps!!!
p.s. Cynthia, how many crops are you growing on your “back 40 acres” there in downtown Manhattan????

Siege

June 3rd, 2011
5:21 pm

Yes, the farmers can easily raise the wages they pay their workers. But they’ll end up passing that increase on the us, the consumers buying the products.

I’m all for putting the inmates in our overcrowded prisons out in the fields. At least this way they can be vaguely useful and it might give a few of them a little incentive to stay out of jail.

Kamchak

June 3rd, 2011
5:21 pm

p.s. Cynthia, how many crops are you growing on your “back 40 acres” there in downtown Manhattan????

Our hostess resides in D.C., sport.

Lil' Barry Bailout

June 3rd, 2011
5:23 pm

Do away with the two years worth of unemployment benefits and watch the folks line up for those $12.50/hour jobs.

oldguy

June 3rd, 2011
5:24 pm

on gee, Than grow a lot more in DC (mostly weed I think). I didn’t realize Soros was requiring his employees to reside in DC now.

Kamchak

June 3rd, 2011
5:31 pm

I didn’t realize…

It’s painfully obvious there is a lot that you don’t realize.

GT

June 3rd, 2011
5:32 pm

Of all the problems this state has how does this illegal immigration item even get on the list. The same scholars that graduated from the 45th ranked educated state in the union now thinks it has what it takes to show the nation the way. The monotone hick accented explanation when you can interpret it is these “Mexicans” are using all our facilities and not paying for them. This group of scholars that hesitate to give single digit sums in their collective heads are now explaining to the rest of the nation the economic effects of carry a cheap labor force. The same bunch that so cleverly declared a civil war because someone was taking away their cheap labor now want nothing to do with it . I was reading the other day that Palin’s appeal to these people is she doesn’t talk down to them, the anti immigration people. She dumbs down the message so they don’t get mad at her but at smart people. Well friends you have been in self created poverty for most of your existence. When the illegals don’t come anymore and agriculture can’t compete with the rest of the country or the world and an impoverished state becomes more so, see if you have any more bright ideas among you.

Lil' Barry Bailout

June 3rd, 2011
5:34 pm

GT, Delta is ready when you are. You’ll be going against the general trend, though, of folks leaving those wonderful northern states and moving to the South.

ck hall

June 3rd, 2011
5:38 pm

What a shame you take these positions to fit your politics…

DannyX

June 3rd, 2011
5:53 pm

“GT, Delta is ready when you are.”

Wow, that was the most witty original comeback I have ever read on these blogs, you really knocked him out with that one!

Send the illegals back, boycott, onions, chicken, corn, lettuce, peaches, restaurants…

Heck, just boycott eating.

Or send our unemployed down to do the work, we’ll starve but send a message.

TBone

June 3rd, 2011
5:55 pm

It is always easy to remove the problem to someone else’s back yard but alot of you need to wake up and see that the illegal immigrant problem is probably more rampant in the metro area than south Georgia. Who cuts your lawn, who paints the house, who pours the concrete, who cooks your fast food and so on and so on. It’s disingenuos to lay all of this at farmers’ feet; we all take advantage of the “low cost” labor. By the way, I do all of my own yard and house work and rarely frequent fast food joints.

GT

June 3rd, 2011
5:57 pm

Five generations Georgian on both sides of my family and my wives. Doesn’t this crowd, this state ever get tired of being stupid and on the wrong side of issues. Don’t you ever blame yourselves for some of the hardships we have endured. We start a war that set us back till this day and we are still fighting that war. This is not about illegal immigrants it is about hate, the same hate that has fuel us for about all our history. Your facts are wrong but they always have been. What you really hate are the facts because you are always on the wrong side of them.

yuzeyurbrane

June 3rd, 2011
5:57 pm

nasonlead, go read what I said again. I was paraphrasing a blogger who claimed to be 1 of your brother onion growers and he clearly said 38 cents combined with a tv news story on the Ga. law showing workers filling what appeared to be bushel sized containers which I subjectively labeled “baskets”. My point was that it was large and appeared to be a lot of onions. As to the piecerate, sounds like your competitor is getting a lot cheaper because he probably does not participate in H2A program and uses illegals. Just the point. Also, I have worked with migrant farmworkers and know how most growers treat them up close and personal. You are to be commended for obeying the law and providing decent working conditions and wages. But you have misdirected anger. You should be peowed at your competitors who undercut you by flaunting the law and preventing a level playing field. The new Ga. law’s burdens will fall primarily on them.

Ray

June 3rd, 2011
6:30 pm

When is the state going to present a back-bill to the farmer’s who encouraged and enticed illegal aliens to come work in Georgia’s fields? Our school’s, teachers, transportation system, health system, etc., have been burdened by the influx of the 400,000 foreigners, and all the cost fell on the backs of Georgia and federal taxpayers.

And, the cost of any bureaucracy formed, or enlarged, to make the labor of those aliens now legal should be borne by the agricultural business in the form of fees. Every business I know would benefit from slave/illegal labor, but, it is not the moral thing to do.

Kamchak

June 3rd, 2011
6:30 pm

TruthBe

June 3rd, 2011
6:37 pm

Kamchak, all you do is apologize for CT. WHY? What connection do you have with her? Are you a family member of hers? Well sport, what is it. CT is a poor acuse of a journlist. She would be better called a George Soros paid lap dog wantbe journlist.

tar and feathers party

June 3rd, 2011
6:48 pm

Kamchak is one of cindy lou’s three other personalities she uses to infiltrate her own blog! The personalities are moving further apart, soon we will have “Sybil” on our hands!

Kamchak

June 3rd, 2011
6:48 pm

Awwwwwwww diddums, you do have hope for me after all.

It

.

Just

.

Gives

.

Me

.

The

.

Warm

.

And

.

Fuzzys!

oldguy

June 3rd, 2011
6:51 pm

Amen truth!!!!!

oldguy

June 3rd, 2011
6:52 pm

Hey Cynthia (and your twin Jay)
When do we get a new article on the great new job numbers (Hah…Hah).

Chris

June 3rd, 2011
6:55 pm

Cynthia,

Just because you live off of twinkies, fried foods and processed cheese (I can tell by those fat cheeks), and don’t eat vegetables or fruits, doesn’t mean you’re right. Actually, your point of view is illegal, immoral, anti-American and racist. Everything you’ve ever written is somehow favors democrats, blacks or yourself. You’re not only stupid, you’re not worth the bandwidth AJC pays to post your idiotic blogs.

midtownguy

June 3rd, 2011
7:00 pm

The reason that all children born in this country are citizens, is because Georgia and other southern states sought to deny the rights of citizenship to the children of slaves proclaiming that they could not be an american citizens because their parents were africans. So the US congress had to pass legislation that any child born here was automatically a citizen.

Now let us fast forward some years, it was the Georgia US Senators that screamed when the Immigration Service raided the south Georgia onion fields to deport illegals. They insisted, and got from their Republican president, a gutting of the INS so that these raids would stop.

We are sleeping in the bed we made.

Kamchak

June 3rd, 2011
7:03 pm

Shorter Chrissie-poo: Boo–hoo-hoo.

Chris

June 3rd, 2011
7:12 pm

Kamchak (Cynthia),

Where’s Granny (Cynthia)?

Paddy O

June 3rd, 2011
7:14 pm

folks need to remember that when Cynthia was remodeling her home, she actually picked up some workers/laborers on the side of the road and, at the time, paid them about $6.00 an hour for the work they performed. Then, if I recall, she griped because they were not too dependable and did not not do great work. She has horrible cause & affect intellectual capacity, which is truncated by her liberal ideology.

Kamchak

June 3rd, 2011
7:14 pm

Kamchak (Cynthia),

Where’s Granny (Cynthia)?

Dunno

Chrissie-poo.

Chris

June 3rd, 2011
7:15 pm

Kammy-poo. Oooooh. Burn! I see all 56 IQ points kicked in on that rebuttal.

Kamchak

June 3rd, 2011
7:16 pm

folks need to…

I am a better judge of what I need to do.

Paddy O

June 3rd, 2011
7:17 pm

OK, how dumb are farmers? Not enough legal laborers? Raise salaries so you can attract more folks – or, work to guarantee that there are enough LEGAL workers for the field work. What does this work pay an hour?

Paddy O

June 3rd, 2011
7:19 pm

kam – that might be, but until you loosen your way too tight panties so that they stop choking off the blood to the sensible side of your body/brain, I am highly skeptical of that statement.

Paddy O

June 3rd, 2011
7:21 pm

kammy: does CT living in DC impress you?

Kamchak

June 3rd, 2011
7:24 pm

…but until you loosen your way too tight panties so that they stop choking off the blood to the sensible side of your body/brain…

I always go commando.

FWIW — Whenever I see someone using imperatives like need to, have to, must etc. it’s a big clue that someone listens to waaaayyyyyy too much talk-radio and tries to use those Jedi mind-tricks that work on them.

Just sayin’.

Kamchak

June 3rd, 2011
7:28 pm

…does CT living in DC impress you?

No.

But if she lived in San Jose, I would be envious.

Chris

June 3rd, 2011
7:28 pm

“Just sayin’” is something Granny says a lot too. Just sayin’!

Jack

June 3rd, 2011
7:29 pm

For the record: the Jack at 10:37AM ain’t me.

oldguy

June 3rd, 2011
7:29 pm

Tell me again why CT is on the AJC staff and she doesn’t live within 500 miles of Georgia??? Really sensitive to Atlanta concerns (and committed to Georgia!).

Chris

June 3rd, 2011
7:30 pm

Piffle. Yay blacks. Yay Obama. Yay illegals. Yay Cynthia. Boo common sense and responsibility!

Kamchak

June 3rd, 2011
7:32 pm

“Just sayin’” is something Granny says a lot too. Just sayin’!

Yep.

The practice started next door at JB’s, and tends to irk certain people over there.

And here too, or so it seems.

Jack

June 3rd, 2011
7:33 pm

Some painful adjustments will have to be made in the farming industry, but we can’t have illegals here under any circumstance.

Kamchak

June 3rd, 2011
7:35 pm

…but we can’t have illegals here under any circumstance.

Are you a round ‘em up and ship ‘em backer?

oldguy

June 3rd, 2011
7:39 pm

Not really Kam,
Lets just round them up and shoot them!!
As long as the drug cartel doesn’t beat us to it!

Kamchak

June 3rd, 2011
8:09 pm

So, you’re Jack and oldguy.

Sock-puppets.

:roll:

Paddy O

June 3rd, 2011
8:11 pm

kam – actually living in Monterey is the place to be. But, you do remember the CT article on hiring folks for her house remodel, yes?

Paddy O

June 3rd, 2011
8:12 pm

kam – Jedi mind tricks don’t work on Siths, do they?

oldguy

June 3rd, 2011
8:12 pm

No, We are both just “Aiming” for a solution!!
Ha HA

Paddy O

June 3rd, 2011
8:13 pm

if you make it uncomfortable for illegals, they will migrate elsewhere. But, how can farmers get adequate #ers of LEGAL workers? Why is that so hard, more Saxby shortcomings?

Lil' Barry Bailout

June 3rd, 2011
8:14 pm

Unemployment rate, May of each year:

2001 4.3%
2002 5.8%
2003 6.1%
2004 5.6%
2005 5.1%
2006 4.6%
2007 4.4%
2008 5.4%
2009 9.4%
2010 9.6%
2011 9.1%

Heckuva job, Idiot Messiah!